Opinion Column

A memorable week for Algonquin College

Jamie Bramburger

By Jamie Bramburger, Special to The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer 
The Right Honourable Paul Martin reflects on his father's legacy and what it means to this generation as he address Algonquin College's Class of 2017 Friday at the Pembroke Memorial Centre. The former prime minister attended the convocation to accept an honourary degree on behalf of his late father.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer The Right Honourable Paul Martin reflects on his father's legacy and what it means to this generation as he address Algonquin College's Class of 2017 Friday at the Pembroke Memorial Centre. The former prime minister attended the convocation to accept an honourary degree on behalf of his late father.

It was an incredible week at Algonquin College.

In the 50-year history of Algonquin College, it would be hard to find another week that would rival what happened at the Pembroke Campus the week of June 11 to 17 as the campus celebrated a celebrity alumnus, hosted a former prime minister at its convocation ceremony, and celebrated the accomplishment of a faculty member.
 
The week started with the Jason Blaine charity concert and golf tournament which raised an astounding $90,000 for local charities and organizations. The country music recording artist and Pembroke campus alumnus has now raised almost $300,000 since launching his charity five years ago in his hometown.
 
The college has been a major benefactor, receiving $100,000 to support its capital fundraising campaign for its Waterfront Campus. Moving forward, Blaine has committed to establishing an endowment that will provide bursaries for students in financial need.
 
To acknowledge Blaine’s financial contributions, the college invited him and his family to unveil a plaque on a computer lab at the Waterfront Campus. It’s been more than 15 years since Blaine graduated from the business program, but he continues to stay connected to the college through his charitable gifts.
 
The graduating class of 2017 will always remember that a former prime minister delivered its convocation address. The Pembroke Memorial Centre was packed with family, friends, dignitaries and college faculty and staff to hear the Right Honourable Paul Martin challenge the graduates to do their part to serve their country and to make Canada a better place to live.
 
He spoke to the graduates after he accepted an honorary degree posthumously on behalf of his late father, Paul Martin Senior, who grew up in Pembroke and served 33 years as an elected member of the House of Commons. It was a stirring speech that was full of references to his father’s upbringing in Pembroke, including his battle with polio as a young child, and how it shaped his decision to introduce the polio vaccination when he was Canada’s Minister of Health and Wellness.
 
The former Prime Minister said, “How many times have I heard the stories of those early years? About how the people of his hometown, enabled him to recover as best he could, and then helped him to go to university. That is why this honorary degree from Pembroke’s Algonquin College means so much to me. Yes, my dad made history. But he never could have done it had the people of Pembroke not been there for him!”
 
Earlier in the day, the City of Pembroke had presented Mr. Martin with a scroll at the Champlain Trail Museum, declaring Friday, June 16 as Paul Martin Senior Day, a repeat of a gesture offered by the Town of Pembroke in 1946 after his father had been sworn into the cabinet of Prime Minister Mackenzie King.
 
The college capped off its big week by cheering on environmental technician co-ordinator, Sarah Hall, who spent more than six hours swimming the 16 kilometre length of Muskrat Lake as part of her “big swim” fundraiser.
 
Hall and her students have spent countless hours researching and working to find solutions to the environmental issues facing the watershed which has been plagued by algae blooms. Her swim raised more than $4,000 for the Muskrat Lake Watershed Council, a group of stakeholders that are working collaboratively to address the problems.
 
It was an amazing few days, but not surprising. There’s always great things happening at Algonquin College’s Waterfront Campus.
 
Jamie Bramburger is the manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin College’s Pembroke Waterfront Campus. Jamie can be reached at brambuj@algonquincollege.com or at 613-735-4700, ext.